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Facebook, Google tell the government to stop granting patents for abstract ideas

Facebook (FB), Google (GOOG) and six other tech companies have petitioned the courts to begin rejecting lawsuits that are based on patents for vague concepts rather than specific applications, TechCrunch reported. The agreement, which was cosigned by Zynga (ZNGA), Dell (DELL), Intuit (INTU), Homeaway (AWAY), Rackspace (RAX), and Red Hat (RHT), notes the only thing these abstract patents do is increase legal fees and slow innovation in the industry. The companies claim that “abstract patents are a plague in the high tech sector” and force innovators into litigation that results in huge settlements or steep licensing fees for technology they have already developed on their own, which then leads to higher prices for consumers.

“Many computer-related patent claims just describe an abstract idea at a high level of generality and say to perform it on a computer or over the Internet,” the briefing reads. “Such barebones claims grant exclusive rights over the abstract idea itself, with no limit on how the idea is implemented. Granting patent protection for such claims would impair, not promote, innovation by conferring exclusive rights on those who have not meaningfully innovated, and thereby penalizing those that do later innovate by blocking or taxing their applications of the abstract idea.”

The companies conclude, “It is easy to think of abstract ideas about what a computer or website should do, but the difficult, valuable, and often groundbreaking part of online innovation comes next: designing, analyzing, building, and deploying the interface, software, and hardware to implement that idea in a way that is useful in daily life. Simply put, ideas are much easier to come by than working implementations.”

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